Reflecting on a 20 Year Adventure

Just over 20 years ago, I was deeply troubled about the state of the world and kind of had a crisis moment. I sat at my desk and told myself to stop complaining and do something about it. A brief inner brainstorm resulted in the idea that became HeadCount. 

Two decades later, we have registered over 1.25 million voters. We became, by one measure, the second largest voter registration organization in America, and we did it while staying true to our roots in music and being a nonpartisan voice that welcomes everyone. 

Today is my last day as HeadCount’s Executive Director. I will stay involved with the new role of Founder and Senior Advisor, but the baton is officially passed to the amazing Lucille Wenegieme, who has ably served as co-executive director for the last few months. 

As I reflect on the adventure of a lifetime, I’m still pretty troubled by the state of the world – aren’t we all? But I also have great hope for the future. When HeadCount started, we were coming off the lowest turnout presidential election ever (Bush vs. Gore in 2000). I’m happy to say we’ve seen voter participation steadily improve over the time since. 2020 actually had the highest turnout by young voters in history, by both percentage and raw numbers. 

In 2024, HeadCount’s goal is to set an all-time record again for both voter registration and turnout by young people. While many people feel rightfully let down by the system these days, I’m still betting another record will be broken. 

HeadCount has never been better positioned to help inspire participation on a massive scale. What started with just a few friends from the live music scene has ballooned into an organization with 60,000 volunteers, 20 full-time staffers and affiliations with over 500 touring musicians. 

We continue to receive incredible support from artists, fans and the whole entertainment universe. Their support gives us a unique opportunity to form connections that are born not from politics but from shared experience. And from there, together, we unlock our collective power.

It has been truly an honor to be part of something so much bigger than myself. I am deeply grateful to every single person who helped make it happen. I wish I could name every single one. It would be a list of many thousands.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that voting is a panacea that can fix all the world’s problems. But I will say that voting is an essential part of any solution. It’s about our communities – whatever they happen to be – all showing up and using whatever power we have. And when enough of us do that, the world starts to change for the better. 

Andy Bernstein